Reality on the Norm - IF equivalent?

Does anyone here know RON?

I know that people from the AGS forums (Trumgottist, I’m looking at you!) will know it, and maybe people will remember that Yahtzee did a couple of IF as well as the Rob Blanc series, the 5 Days a Skeptic series (which includes one SCI-style parser-controlled game and three ZCode short stories), 2112, et al.

ANYWAY. I digress, as usual.

RON is something that always fascinated me when I still thought I could make games. It’s a fictional town, with fictional well-established characters. Every author was welcome to just join in and contribute to the ever-growing RON storyline. This was made possible mostly because of Yahtzee’s off-beat and strongly designed characters (possibly caricatures, at first, but in a project like this that’s what you need; broad strokes, general outlines, so that any storyline can have the chance to develop whatever any particular author wishes to).

Resources were always made available to anyone interested in making a RON game; there were templates so that one had the graphics, animations and GUI and was ready to begin on their own story.

I’ve often wondered, how about an IF equivalent?

We’ve had the Andromeda series recently, which is quite amazing. As Wade Clark recently posted ( … omeda.html) the way that various different authors, of differing styles, chimed in to help create a larger mythology - and in such a cohese manner - is inspiring. But what about something a bit more open, something that anyone could easily join without having to fully understand Andromeda? Something a bit easier to follow?

Something, in fact, that would encourage people to start writing their games? If you have a concept that you haven’t developed fully for a stand-alone, why not make it part of a growing storyline? With shared resources already available, and with a lot of context already in place, you could focus on what you wanted to focus, as presumably the characters and locations would already be well known to the players.

I’m just wondering aloud, really. As a player, this is something I’d totally love. I have a soft spot for RON still.

I should add that RON accomodated one-offs as well as, surprisingly, a pretty big story arc involving The Surrealist. I think it all started back when one author rather mean-spiritedly decided to off a main character (Davy Jones), who then had to be brough back… and over the following games this became both a joke and, eventually, part of something bigger.

It’s not the sort of thing you can plan for, and it can get quite amazing. It was also fair game to pick a minor character, like the clerk at the convenience store, and give him super-powers, making him the protagonist.

Did I mention Dave Gilbert wrote a couple of Ron games? Yep.

Yes, it’s a fun idea, but also intimidating. There’s a lot of stuff to keep track of.

Very true. That’s very off-putting to late newcomers to RON.

I hear Marco provided a “cheat sheet” to his Andromeda universe, and that it made a big difference. Do you think that would help?

A wiki would work well to keep things organized.

I should add there’s some IF in Reality-On-The-Norm using the gloriously obscure “Computer Novel Construction Set” from 1985.

Yes, there is. I should add to your addition that it’s pretty crappy, though. :slight_smile:

This does mean that it’s perfectly possible to create IF in the RON universe. But I did think it would be more interesting to come up with something closer to IF, rather than borrow an existing theme.

Sort of related to this: As some of you may recall, we tried to come up with a shared world for IF a few years back, but as far as I know nobody actually finished anything. The thing we came up with back then was a tongue-in-cheek swashbucklers-with-mutant-powers-meets-voodoo-priests setting that we just called Mutant Pirates.

There’s a Google Doc here where you can check it out. This is an “anyone can comment” link, if you want an editor link, PM me here or otherwise (e.g.

Anyway, if anybody is interested in picking that up - or starting over with a new world - I for one think that would be fun.

It looks seriously cool, but also seriously involved and hard to just join in. Lots of stuff going on. Also very, very specific. What if you just took the basic concept - pirates and a mutating plague - and let the games answer the various questions that pepper the existing document?

What you have there looks ideal for a group of people brainstorming and wanting to make a series of games. What if we aimed for something much looser and vagye so that everyone could join in - and do whatever the heck they liked! - and let some of the questions answer themselves as the authors feel the need to?

Let’s see, we could start with a pirate-y place (I keep imagining Melee Island :stuck_out_tongue: ), after the plague; introduce a handful of key characters, defined in broad strokes (plenty of room for development later if necessary); and kick it off with a few experimental games, see where it leads.

Basically, it’s doing what you were doing with the design doc - but have it done in games instead of editing a document! And for the most part, what the games add to the whole thing sticks.

I think that’s probably a more promising direction Peter. Games should really be the expanders of canon in a shared world, not game bibles.

Meh, I guess. I don’t know why you see a text document as “a bible” while you’re fine with games defining canon - that seems pretty arbitrary to me.

The way I saw it, that Mutant Pirate document was never intended to be “first, let’s decide every little thing, and THEN write games”, it was more about finding a way to bootstrap the process to write some games in a shared world when there were no previous games to base that world on, and discussing that world and how to collaborate on it. I still think some document or wiki or whatever describing locations, people, and other facts seem like a good tool do this sort of collaboration, regardless of whether stuff goes into the world building straight away or gets extracted from previous games.

But any which way - does anybody want to do something along these lines? I am more interested in the general idea than that pirate setting… any other ideas?

Oh no, don’t get me wrong, I thought the design doc was a great idea (I wrote a whole bunch of it myself, after all), and a collective document or wiki to collate all the facts is pretty essential. I meant more that the real steam of these projects comes from the games themselves.

I’m super interested in this sort of thing. That’s part of what drew me to the Andromeda games. I think collectively a shared setting can transcend any of its instances.

I’m pretty sure the way RON worked was Yahtzee just made the first game which set the tone and background and a bunch of initial characters, and then people took it from there. Perhaps you (or a bunch of people co-authoring) could write the first game, and then open it up from there? The mutant pirates idea had a lot of promise for a pretty unique genre-fic mashup. It veers a bit close to Monkey Island territory but is very distinct with the mutations aspect.

If I recall correctly, R-o-t-N was more than just a shared setting, it was a shared bundle of assets (which for AGS mostly means level backdrops and animated character sprites) that people could use to slap together a game. One of the reasons there is less demand for something like it for IF is, well – IF doesn’t need assets.

Well, not necessarily - imagine, say, in I7, an extension for the default world map. Ta-da - instant georaphy, together with scenery and descriptions and maybe even all those little details that can be annoying to think up when you’re actually trying to, you know, make the actual game. An extension for each character - pick and choose the ones you want, import their extension, done. If you don’t feel like making a game, dive into those extensions and update the characters and locations.

Yes, in AGS it did mean that a huge hurdle was out of the way - you had all of the graphics, so it was way easier to start working on your actual game. That surely had a lot to do with its popularity (when it was popular). Doesn’t mean it’s not something that could be brought over to IF and still benefit from all the sharing - sharing what there is to share.

It seems to me that there is some tentative interest on this. That’s pretty awesome.

This would probably be a good time to start throwing some ideas in the air and grabbing at them. Once there’s an idea that enough people like, it will probably be time to start making games. Short games, just to get the ball rolling (not unlike themed SpeedIFs, except, well, not being SpeedIFs).

Maybe I’ll finally make a game, even. Who knows. Golly, what a prospect!

So right now there’s the idea of a piratey theme (that to two of us sounds Monkey Island-ish, and I say that’s great) with a “mutation plague” gimmick. That’s what it boils down to, pretty much, with a lot of work already done that may be consulted or, er, skimmed over as the need may be.

There’s also the basic RON premise; a town which is slightly off-beat. The advantage of that is, it can go anywhere (PCs included a bookish sorcerer, a brilliant scientist/engineer, a chicken, death, and a PI). But I’m not sure it fits the interests of this community.

Also, superheroes are very popular in IF when they turn up. And with the desconstructing they’ve gone through over the decades, all the way from early Superman to Watchmen, it could be fertile ground.

Any ideas welcome. Hopefully, someone will say something that other people will go “Hey, that’s pretty damn cool!” and we can latch onto that.

EDIT - Food for thought - two of my favourite series are “Red Dwarf” and “The Prisoner”. “Red Dwarf” in particular was able to cram many different styles into its episodes, even a Western once. For a show being about a human, a hologram, an android and a cat isolated in space, they even found a way to bring them back to “earth” for an episode (albeit a simulated one. And if you allow yourself to go past season 5, they even get to a “backwards planet” - literally). “The Prisoner” was also remarkably diverse (and it also did a Western). I mean, if we were to get away from the RON mold for more inspiration, I’d point out these two series as possible ideas: a basic setting, compelling but uncomplicated, and fertile ground to grow in.

Wanting to get all this off the theoretical ground and into practice, I thought I’d actually make a game. With the mutant pirates theme.

That stalled very quickly. I’m sorry, guys, I’m just not a dev. I have a pretty good idea of how it goes, and the characters, and the basic puzzles; I could write a design document; I know what bits go where, and it’s pretty damn vivid in my head; but actually making the game is draining (which is weird because I have quite a bit of fun when I’m working on specific, short segments. And the actual wordsmithing is fun too. But whenever I try to think of The Big Picture, my willpower just goes somewhere else). You guys who actually finish games are heroes, y’know.

The reason I’m posting this is just to basically say, I didn’t stop entertaining the idea, and if any of you guys - any of you heroes - just want to take the ball and run with it, see where it gets you, please do! :slight_smile:

Would you be open to sharing what you’d come up with so far (puzzles/design doc/characters?) maybe someone could pick up where you left off or co-write it with you?

FWIW I just added a suggested timeline to that mutant pirates doc.

If anybody wants to collaborate on that, PM me (with a google eccount) and I’ll give you access. Or should I move it to a github repo? Or something else? I’m open for suggestions. And yes, Peter Piers - it sounds great if you have anything to share, in whatever state, shape or form.

Ok, yeah, sure thing.

[rant=what the whole thing was about]Basically, I thought about helping a character join a crew of the most (in)famous crew of pirates, who happened to dock at his little town and who are in the tavern right now. The PC I was writing was fleshing out to be an orphan (parents taken by the plague, so in this timeline the plague was very much a recent thing), eighteen years old, who was taken in by a cartographer to be his apprentice. The cartographer was, in the eyes of the PC, not a good man. Hardly original, I know. The idea is that the PC had nothing to keep him in the town he’d always lived, and had become enamoured with the idea of travelling. He has picked up the skills to be a navigator (possibly helped along by actual navigators he’d met and who took a shine to him), so that apart from his obvious skills in cartography he’d aslo be able to navigate celestially, with the proper instruments.

Of course, why would the pirate crew - who, Guybrush-Threepwood fashion, he’d thought of as THE way to achieve his goal - taken him in?

If we agree that every survivor of the plague has a mutation, and they may be all sorts, and it may be useful or useless, extra heads or extra pinkies, then I figured his mutation would be priceless for a navigator - but scientifically hard to swallow… I was thinking he’d be sentisitve to magnetism. I was thinking that he would be a human compass - that he would know exactly where he was on the globe in relation to every other spot simply because he could feel how close/far he was to either magnetic pole. This would not account for e/w directions, but that’d be where the rest of his training would kick in.

Plus, I would imagine he could affect small metallic items magnetically. ATTRACT or REPEL.

Anyway, it’s just a thought. The idea was that he’d go into the tavern…

…the tavern being guarded by a bouncer the PM wishes to avoid; I was going for the brother/cousin of a girl the PC had made out with, whose mutation had made him particularly useful as a bouncer (this is the new world order, your mutations dictate what you do for a living) - extra eyes, maybe, or extra muscles, I dunno. To get into the tavern he’d go around the back, where some chickens are kept. I was thinking a timing puzzle where every few turns the tavern’s lowliest worker would go out and check on the chickens, but he’d only go out if no one was there. The PC would hide, the guy would leave the door open - and while it was open, the PC would be able to ATTRACT the bolt/latch, so that when the door was open it wouldn’t close again on its own. And take that chance to introduce the PC’s mutation.

…and once in the tavern, locate the pirate captain (by convincing the bartender; maybe there’s a guy playing the cup game and taking all his patrons’ money, which is less money for them to spend on drinks; and maybe the player can introduce some metallic in the ball he’s using to then find out where it is, and expose the cup-gamer for cheating, driving him away and earning the information from the bartender) and try to convince him that he’s the navigator they want.

I envisioned the pirate captain as a rather stereotypical fearsome sight, with no obvious mutations (which would add to his mistique). He’d be accompanied by his first mate, a just-as-stereotypical afro-caribbean woman with an extra few arms and a penchant for knives and their various handlding, including the throwing thereof. I toyed with the idea of getting his attention, hadn’t given much thought to that as a puzzle yet. Maybe the first mate would be the first obstacle. Anyway, once the PC had shown his abilities, he’d be told the pirates already HAVE a navigator, and he’s in the cartographer’s right now, stocking up and gathering necessary information.

The PC would have to go out of the tavern, which I imagined as the PC dropping a ram’s skull on top of the bouncer.

Hmmm? Oh, I should explain that better, shouldn’t I? The PC wouldn’t easily be able to leave the way he came in, through the kitchen. There’d be a second floor, and through that he could reach a pole where a ram’s skull is tied - tied just above the bouncer. The skull is the tavern’s name - The Ram’s Skull (the original owner was illiterate, and so were most of the clientelle anyway). Untie the skull, knock the bouncer unconscious, come and go as you please.

This is where I stopped (in my head), but I had the idea that, contrary to the player’s expectations, the old navigator wouldn’t be much of an obstacle, he could be the first friendly face so far. He could even persuade the captain to take on the boy as his apprentice. Anyway, then they would leave and the game would end.[/rant]

This doesn’t make for a potentially interesting game, I know. It’s like something out of IntroComp. But I figured it was a starting point to get the ball rolling.

The following transcript is the very little I actually programmed wrote. The writing tone surprised me; I hadn’t meant it to be quite that cynical. I guess the PC I’d thought of was more embittered than I’d thought; I’m not sure this is a tone that’s appropriate to this whole idea, and that’s also why I didn’t stick much with it.

[rant=What little I wrote]This is it. This is your chance.

Eleven years an orphan. Eleven years a cartographer’s apprentice. And nothing to
look forward to but a lifetime of scrolls and parchments, dusty paper, smelly
ink. Latitudes and longitudes criss-crossing vivid illustrations of land and
vegetation and rivers and Here There Be Dragons. Astrolabes and stars, in your
spare time. But the stars are too far away, and the illustrations are just that,
and you ache - ache! - to cross those rivers and see those dragons.

Well, no more. If all goes well (and the blasted plague left you with a secret
weapon) you’ll be leaving this God-forgotten island, navigator to Captain

That’s if you can get into the sodding tavern, of course.

Mutant Pirates 1 Draft
An Interactive Fiction by Peter Piers
Release 1 / Serial number 150904 / Inform 7 build 6L38 (I6/v6.33 lib 6/12N) SD

Outside The Ram’s Skull
You were far too young to remember the Ram’s Skull before the plague came, but
by all accounts it wasn’t much better. The patrons have some extra limbs now, or
a scaly handshake, and the contents of the spitoon can be an alchemical disaster

  • but the spitoons weren’t safe even back then, nor would you want to trust
    anyone inside with a handshake.

On the outside, it looks fairly run-down. Its crowd is not the sort to bother
much about appearances. Or stability. It’s noisy and it reeks. And you have to
get in, somehow.

The door is to the north, right underneath the actual skull, but you’d have to
get past Biff. Then again, nothing prevents you from going northwest, around the
back of the place.

x me
Seventeen years of age, eleven of which were spent learning cartography from
your master and celestial navigation from any navigator who’d talk to you
(usually after you’d shown them your special trick).

You’re dimly aware of some six years before that. A mother, a father, hot food,
a comfortable bed. Some good, some bad. It’s not important any more.

Outside The Ram’s Skull
The Ram’s Skull looks, smells and sounds like a run-down, ill-kept tavern for
sailors of all descriptions, and the less you describe them the better.

The door is to the north, right underneath the actual skull, but you’d have to
get past Biff. Then again, nothing prevents you from going northwest, around the
back of the place.

x skull
You remember passing it by with your parents, very quickly so you wouldn’t have
to look, and afterwards with your master, very slowly so you’d have no choice.
In your nightmares its eyes would be crawling with maggots, and it would chase
you wherever you went.

You’ve seen worse things since then. Much to your master’s chagrin, all you see
now is a stupid old piece of bone, tied askew to a wooden pole because whoever
first owned the tavern couldn’t even write.

x skull
A stupid old thing, tied askew to a wooden pole because whoever first owned the
tavern couldn’t even write.

You can’t, not with Biff standing right there. And you can’t seem to sneak past
him, either. However you’re going it, it’s not by the front door.

You have nothing to your name. So you have nothing to lose.


Use this and abuse this or discard it as you will! I was hoping to provide a small game rather than a lengthy explanation, but hey.

Hey, how about turning this into a collaborative open-sourced coding experiment? Is anybody up for that? We could also try a thread like the “Everybody IF!” thread a years back. Anybody?

An “Everybody IF” thread could be fun. Personally I’m not that interested in the mutant pirates idea, though.